Fallout 3 Tabletop Game 1: Characters

Fallout 3 Wallpaper. Brotherhood of Steel Knight standing in the Capitol Wasteland
Promotional image for Fallout 3, from Bethesda

Every year around Thanksgiving, I have a guaranteed 4 days off from my day job. If possible I get the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving off as well, netting me a total of 6 days to myself. It’s as close as I’m able to get to a vacation, and just about the only time of the year when I can get really invested in a video game. This year I spent an absolutely obscene amount of time playing Fallout 3, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t get as much work done as I had planned to, but I’ve decided that’s okay. ‘All work and no play makes jack a dull boy’ isn’t just a terrifying reveal in a Kubrick film. It’s an adage with some real wisdom behind it.

After spending several days immersed in the game, my ladyfriend and I were chatting about it over lunch. We came to the conclusion that we both loved the setting and style of the game, and enjoyed playing it. But both of us found that we always wanted more options. Why can’t you join the Enclave, for example? Or cart the nuke from Megaton all the way to Tenpenny tower, and blow them up? Or, ya know…fix one of the cars scattered all over the place and drive it around the Wasteland. Obviously the options in a video game are necessarily limited in scope. Every insane whim a player might want to pursue cannot be accounted for.

But tabletop games do not suffer from any such limitations.

It took me perhaps twenty minutes to sketch out the core of the system. It was remarkably simple. Fallout 3’s mechanics are close to a tabletop game already. In fact, the original fallout games were going to be based on GURPS before negotiations between the developers and Steve Jackson Games fell apart. What I cobbled together seems pretty solid to me, and I’m proud enough of it that I thought I’d share.

I must stress that the rules below are imperfect. I haven’t had the opportunity to play test the system yet. And even without play testing it, I can tell you that the rules are math-heavy and complex. I’ve tried to simplify them as much as I can, but there’s only so much that can be done.

Take a look if you’re interested. And if you like what I’ve put together, let me know.

Fallout 3 Tabletop Characters

S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Each Fallout 3 character has seven SPECIAL attributes which range between 1 and 20. When a character is created, the value of these attribute should be determined in order, by rolling 1d20 for each. If you wish, 3 sets of SPECIAL attributes can be rolled, and the player can select the set which appeals to them the most.

The seven attributes are:

Strength
Perception
Endurance
Charisma
Intelligence
Agility
Luck

Meta Human Races as Player Characters

Most Fallout 3 characters are human. However, players may wish to take on the role of one of the mutated, meta-human races. Doing so comes with some mechanical bonuses and penalties. The GM should also remember that these races are not welcome in most human societies. Super mutant characters receive a +10 bonus to Strength and Endurance, and a -10 penalty to Charisma and Intelligence. Ghoul characters receive a +10 bonus to their Endurance, and a -10 penalty to their Charisma. Racial bonuses cannot reduce a SPECIAL attribute below 1, but they may raise it above 20. (This is the only way a SPECIAL attribute can ever be raised above 20).

In addition to SPECIAL bonuses and penalties, Meta-human races must spend 2 skill points to receive 1 rank in any skills associated with a SPECIAL attribute they have a racial penalty in. For example, if a Ghoul (who has -10 Charisma) wished to raise their Speech skill (which is associated with Charisma), then that character would need to spend 2 skill points to raise their Speech skill by 1.

Skills

Fallout 3 characters each have 13 skills. Each of these skills is associated with one of the SPECIAL attributes. The skills, and the attributes associated with them, are:

Barter (C)
Big Guns (E)
Energy Weapons (P)
Explosives (P)
Lockpick (P)
Medicine (I)
Melee Weapon (S)
Repair (I)
Science (I)
Small Guns (A)
Sneak (A)
Speech (C)
Unarmed (E)

Each skill has a value between 1 and 100. When a character is created, each skill’s starting value is calculated by taking the value of the associated SPECIAL attribute, and adding one half of the value of the Luck attribute, rounded up.

Kestrel has a Perception of 14, and a Luck of 5. There are three skills associated with Perception: Energy Weapons, Explosives, and Lockpick. Each of these skills will begin with a value of of 17. (Perception + 1/2 of Luck, rounded up)

Once the starting value of each skill is calculated, the player chooses three skills to ‘tag.’ Tagged skills are raised by a value of 15 points.Kestrel would like her character to be a sneaky explosives expert. So she tags the Explosives, Lockpick, and Sneak skills. This brings her Explosives and Lockpick skills up to 32 each (since they were at 17 before). Sneak is an Agility skill, and Kestrel’s Agility is 11. After everything is calculated, her starting Sneak skill 29 [Agility(11) + Tag(15) + 1/2 of Luck, Rounded Up(3)].

Misc

Once a character’s SPECIAL scores have been assigned, and their starting skills have been calculated, there are only two things remaining before the character is ready to play: hit points, and carrying capacity. Players do not begin the game with any caps or equipment. These must be gained through play.

A character’s starting hit points are equal to twice their Endurance score. A character’s carrying capacity is always equal to 100, plus their Strength times Five. So if Kestrel has a Strength of 15, her carrying capacity would be 175.

Leveling Up

Characters can level up by gaining experience points. Each time the character reaches 50xp, they receive a new level, and their experience resets to 0. Experience points are gained by overcoming challenges, with more experience points being awarded for greater challenges. Some examples include:

  • Opening difficult locks, hacking difficult computers, convincing someone of something which they were skeptical of, defeating an easy monster. (1 xp)
  • Defeating a difficult monster (2 xp)
  • Defeating an extremely difficult monster (3xp)
  • Completing a minor quest. (5xp)
  • Completing a major quest. (10xp)

Each time a character gains a new level, each of the following 3 things occurs:

  • The character’s maximum HP goes up by an amount equal to their current Endurance score.
  • The character receives a number of skill points equal to 10 + 1/2 their Intelligence. Each of these points may be spent to raise a skill by 1.
  • The character receives a perk, which will be given to them by the GM according to my Feat Slots system.

Example traits include:

  • Lightfooted. The character will never set off landmines.
  • Child at Heart. +15% to any social interactions with children.
  • Thief. 5 points each to the Sneak and Lockpick skills.
  • Intimidator. +10% to any Speech attempt where a believable threat is made.

Tomorrow I’ll post detailed information on how the game’s skills work.

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4 thoughts on “Fallout 3 Tabletop Game 1: Characters”

  1. How has no-one commented on this?! Seriously! This idea is great! I think it’d work well for a solo game with one GM and a player, or even the standard four person group.

    You might also try taking a look at the stuff included in Fallout: New Vegas, as it expands on the Fallout 3 stuff as well as tacking on new developments as well. :D

  2. Hey i see this as some really good work and im gonna try and use what you have to do a play test. i was wondering if you have play tested this and found any errors. a long time since a last comment was posted

    1. I’ll be honest, I never actually touched this. It was a fun thought experiment, but nobody was really interested in giving it a quick try, and I didn’t push it that hard.

      Though I *have* been getting really into New Vegas, which has gotten me thinking about post apocalyptic role playing again.

  3. Interesting Idea.

    I’ve run a similar RP where instead of rolling for the stats, I gave each player 45 S.P.E.C.I.A.L points to divide amongst the stats, (each has a minimum of 1, and maximum of 10.)

    I had the following Skill-Set;

    Barter (C)
    Energy Weapons (P)
    Explosives (P)
    Lockpick (P)
    Medicine (I)
    Melee Weapon (S)
    Repair (I)
    Science (I)
    Small Guns (A)
    Sneak (A)
    Speech (C)
    Survival (E)
    Unarmed (E)

    Each skill has a value between 1 and 100. When a character is created, each skill’s starting value is calculated by taking the value of the associated SPECIAL attribute x 2, and adding the value of the Luck attribute.

    Kestrel has a Perception of 5, and a Luck of 5. There are three skills associated with Perception: Energy Weapons, Explosives, and Lockpick. Each of these skills will begin with a value of of 15. (Perception + 1/2 of Luck, rounded up)

    Once the starting value of each skill is calculated, the player chooses three skills to ‘tag.’ Tagged skills are raised by a value of 15 points. Kestrel would like her character to be a sneaky explosives expert. So she tags the Explosives, Lockpick, and Sneak skills. This brings her Explosives and Lockpick skills up to 32 each (since they were at 17 before).

    Sneak is an Agility skill, and Kestrel’s Agility is 6. After everything is calculated, her starting Sneak skill 32 [Agility(6)2 + Tag(15) + Luck(5)].

    I also have Traits and Perks, but that is a whole post in themselves.

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